Brief

Mastercard, American Express and Wells Fargo charge up Facebook Messenger chatbots

Dive Brief:

  • Mastercard has launched AI-powered Masterpass chatbots in Facebook Messenger allowing customers to order from FreshDirect, Subway and The Cheesecake Factory within the messaging platform, according to a press release. The bots will also support Masterpass-enabled wallets from Citi and Capital One. 
  • A second press release revealed American Express has updated its Amex chatbot for Facebook Messenger. The bot answers questions about account and membership reward balances, and pending charges. In addition, it features real-time purchase notifications, and details on card services and benefits. Initiated originally in 2016, the Amex bot facilitates card holders putting their cards and billing information on file with Facebook.
  • A third press release divulged Wells Fargo & Co. is piloting a Messenger chatbot with several hundred team members. Later this spring, the pilot program will open up to a few thousand customers. Wells Fargo noted that it has offered assistance on Facebook since 2009 and, last year, turned to Messenger as its principal platform for responding to customer service issues. 

Dive Insight:

Chatbots aren't the most liked computer programs. They've been criticized for being ineffective, hard to find and inhuman, but they aren’t fading away. In fact, they’re proliferating. Facebook Messenger chief David Marcus revealed at Facebook’s developer conference F8 that there are now 100,000 bots on the messaging service, up from 33,000 in September. And he said 20 million businesses are fielding customer questions in Messenger. Social media users are increasingly relying on a fewer number of big apps – Facebook Messenger being one – and businesses, including Mastercard, Wells Fargo and American Express, are beginning to understand they have to be active on those apps where users spend the most time if they want to connect with them.

Although chatbots are exploding, they’re definitely not everywhere. Forrester Research found 4% of companies have launched chatbots. However, 31% percent plan to implement them. There’s been hesitation because of the limitations of chatbots in their current forms. As Marketing Land points out, there may be thousands and thousands of bots on Facebook Messenger, but the platforms 1.2 billion users rarely know about them. Facebook is acutely aware of that problem. To address it, Messenger has added a section to help people unearth bots and business profiles. Facebook has also enhanced the capabilities of its Messenger assistant M to recommend businesses to users within conversations where businesses might be relevant.

The chatbot improvements and growth of their business use by Mastercard, American Express, Wells Fargo and others suggest Facebook Messenger is becoming much more of a commerce platform. TechCrunch singled out the bot SnapTravel’s $1 million windfall of hotel bookings in Messenger as proof that chat commerce is starting to have legs. Facebook doesn’t seem to be convinced. As Marcus disclosed at a Recode conference, Messenger is relying on advertising rather than commerce or payments to fuel revenues. He apparently views commerce opportunities as mainly giving people another reason to stay on Messenger. During F8, he described Messenger as “the new social living room for the world, where people can hang out, share, chat, play games or buy things, while being able to reach nearly everyone, wherever they are."  

Filed Under: Apps Chatbots Mobile marketing trends
Top image credit: MasterCard news